The Beaver English Department teaches active reading, writing, reflection, and analysis. In our explorations of language and literature, we encourage students to access both their imaginations and their intellects. As they learn, students develop the means of confidently and skillfully expressing their knowledge, observations, and feelings. We believe that engagement with literature leads students to explore human nature, understand multiple perspectives, question the world around them, and appreciate the power and complexity of language.
Ninth grade classes are all offered at the Standard level only, giving students a year to accustom themselves to the demands of the upper school curriculum. In the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades, students may elect to take their English courses at the Honors level during the course selection process. Specific expectations for honors students are outlined below. While the English department is committed to providing every student with a challenging curriculum, the Honors option is open to any student who wishes to engage with the subject at an even more sophisticated, complex, and demanding level. In making their decisions, students should consult their current English teachers and/or the head of the department. Decisions should take into account level of interest as well as ability in English.
In grade 10 through 12, students may elect to take their English course at the honors level by signing a contract. Honors students are expected to be leaders in class discussions, to maintain a high level of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity, and to demonstrate a superior level of critical analysis in all written work and on honors-specific prompts on assessments. Earning Honors credit requires that after electing Honors and signing the contract, that the student continues to live up to these expectations.
What does it mean to be American? From the revolution that defined our independence to the very cases contended today in the Supreme Court, in this required course we address all elements of Americanism, the beautiful and the sordid. In doing this, we turn to great American writers whose professed goal it was to define generations of American citizens, and we use these writings to ask the question: What does it really mean to be American?
For the second term of American Literature, students choose one of the following courses:
There are myriad tangible and intangible ways that we define ourselves — from large scale identifiers like nation and religion, to the little things, like choosing what shoes to wear in the morning. The Identity Term looks at identity through varied American lenses, and all of these perspectives help inform our own perspectives of who we are and why we believe the things we do.
From switching schools to road trips to crossing borders to westward expansion, movement and travel are quintessential parts of our individual journeys and America’s history. In this class we explore the relationship between movement and change and the impact on characters’ development and sense of self. Through these journeys, we hope to get a better sense of the role of movement and travel within the American experience and experiment.
This required term of English 11: Rhetoric focuses on the power of perspective. We will explore and cultivate our own voices through creative non-fiction, non-linear storytelling, and poetry. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, a craft that will bring us to conversations about politics, culture, business entrepreneurship, advertising and marketing. In this, we will both develop a lens through which we read expert texts while also writing our own way into knowing.
For the second term of English 11: Rhetoric, students choose one of the following courses:
Prose and Politics
This term of English 11: Rhetoric explores how storytelling informs politics — the politics of government, race, joy, and all other aspects of the human condition. We will explore how political movements inject themselves into all facets of experience, from the personal to the communal and beyond.
This term of English 11: Rhetoric dives into the idea that change can come through acts of defiance and transformation. We will explore the notion of protest, both the individual and the societal, ultimately asking the question: “How are we, at our very core, reactions to our environment, or even protests against the status quo?”.
What is Power? (required)
In this trimester course, we question the nature of power. What is the intersection of power and our characters’ gender, age, race, political beliefs, socio-economic reality, or experience? What is the relationship between power and fate? Why do some characters let power compromise their beliefs while others use their power for good?
For the second term of English 9 students choose one of the following courses:
Friend or Foe?
In this trimester course, human connection is at the heart of the stories. As relationships are tested, characters learn about themselves and the world. Ultimately, these characters deepen our understanding of compassion, strength, and the wide-ranging definition of friendship and love.
Truth or Dare?
In this trimester course, we dig into the relationship between truth, knowledge, and risk. As our characters face challenges to their beliefs, they examine how their beliefs developed into truth in the first place. Through these characters, we explore what happens when different or alternate truths come into conflict and what is needed to build understanding.
Previous winners: 1984, Lolita, Brave New World, Catch 22, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, Scarlet Letter, On the Road, The Kite Runner.
Possible texts: stories and essays by Angelou, Boyle, Burnham, Cheever, Cunningham, Fondation, Forché, Miller, Minot, Oppenheimer, Painter, Salinger, Shae, Tolstoy, Updike, and Wolff.